One thing that helps a lot of jocks is that they start as part of a group that can pass on status.
I moved to a new school for high school. I decided to play football (for some foolish reason given that at the time I had no size or muscles). This required me to start practice over a month before school started.
Then, that lovel first day of school as a new, scrawny kid. Two guys walk up to mess with me, and then find themselves facing 3 others with the statement of “leave Algher alone, he’s cool. He’s on the team.” With that I went from the bottom of the pile to the middle in one second. As a Freshman, I had Seniors who knew me and would say hello - thus elevating my status. Later, when I was an upperclassman, I unwittingly would do the same for other new Frosh.
Good sports teams back each other, and there is power in numbers in high school. With those numbers, you get a little more self- confidence and you don’t feel like you are a complete outsider.
Second anecdote. My son is in high school. He was at lunch when one of the bullies started making fun of a fat kid at his table (fat is relevant, as that was the focus of the verbal bullying). However, that fat kid is also on my son’s lacrosse team. My son just rounded on the bully and started verbally eviscerating him in return, defending the fat kid. Bully then tries to focus on my son instead, dropping a joke about how he should shut up as just a bench warmer, but talking about his time on the soccer team instead. With that, members of his soccer team start laughing - since my son was a starter and never substituted (stealth parent bragging!).
So one bully finds himself getting taken down (someday he will start pit threads that go awry). He gets taken down because he messes with members of sports teams who back each other up. At the same team, each member of the team gets a little stronger and little higher in the pecking order.